Emotions: Who Are You?

By Kat Giles BSW, MSW, RSW  |  July 15th

For so long, I thought my emotions were either “good” or “bad.”

Happiness – good

Anger – bad

Anxiety – bad

Excitement – good (as long as you don’t have too much of it)

From my work as a counsellor I know that I am not alone in these beliefs. Many people have the idea that emotions are either “good” or “bad.”  

But what if that is not true…

When people say that emotions are “good” or “bad”, I hear a desire to get rid of the bad and keep the good. I hear a story that says, “Anger, anxiety, fear, guilt, you have no place in my life.”

Of course, some emotions are uncomfortable; but what if they have a purpose?

Uncovering the purpose of emotions is important. When people really examine their emotions, they discover that emotions are trying to communicate something to them. Emotions are alerting your mind and body to situations happening around you.

In a coming series of blogs, we are going to examine emotions. The goal of this series is to work on externalizing emotions and understanding what emotions are communicating to us. If we can master these skills, we will be able to respond in healthy ways to the emotions we feel.

Internalizing vs Externalizing Emotions

Many people I work with have “internalized” their emotions. This means they have taken the identity of emotions onto themselves.

Internalized emotions sound like, “I am anxious”, “I am angry,” or “I am happy.”  The issue with this is that when we internalize emotions, they stay with us. Even in moments when that emotion is not the primary emotion we feel, internalized emotions create a narrative that we are that emotion.

In contrast, “externalized” emotions acknowledge that emotions come and go. Emotions are not there to stay.  Externalizing emotions sounds like “I feel anxious,” “I feel angry,” or “I feel happy.”  

Once we externalize our emotions, we can begin to examine them. Our emotions all have a purpose. Each emotion is trying to communicate something to us. When we understand what emotions communicate, we can respond in amazing, healthy ways!

I hope you will join us on this journey of asking, [Emotion] What Are Trying to Communicate to Me?